Complaints Related to the Misapplication of a Pesticide
A citizen’s guide to understanding the pesticide incident, investigation and enforcement response process
Who do I contact if I have a complaint related to a pesticide misuse?
If you believe that a pesticide has been misused you can contact the Office of Pesticide Services at (804)786-3798.
The Office of Pesticide Services is a program within the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) which works under the authority of the Commissioner and the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services. For more information about the program visit: www.vdacs.virginia.gov/pesticides.
During the 2012 Session, the General Assembly assigned responsibility for regulating pesticides to Virginia's Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services under the Virginia Pesticide Control Act (Act) in the Code of Virginia (1950), as amended, under Title 3.2, Chapter 39-Pesticide Control. With the exception of regulation making, the Board may delegate its authority to the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Commissioner oversees OPS which enforces the Act and regulations governing the sale, distribution, use, storage, and disposal of pesticides in the state.
Section 3.2-3942(A) of the Code of Virginia (1950), as amended, gives the Commissioner the authority to enter any public or private premises operating as a pesticide business at reasonable times, with the consent of the owner or tenant, in order to inspect any equipment used in pesticide applications; inspect storage or disposal areas; inspect or investigate complaints of injury to humans, animals, birds or property; sample any pesticide being applied or to be applied; or enforce any other provision of the Act.
What is the role of the Pesticide Investigator?
The Enforcement and Field Operations Section of OPS currently has 9 investigators available to conduct in-depth investigations of pesticide complaints to determine whether a pesticide has been misused.
Upon receipt of information regarding the complaint, the pesticide investigator will contact all pertinent individuals to conduct an investigation. The investigator may document incident information through interviews, maps, photographs, on-site assessment and pesticide labels, which are compiled into an investigative report. The investigator may also collect physical evidence such as swab (surfaces), soil, vegetation and water samples to aid in the determination of violations. All samples and evidence will be collected by VDACS personnel to ensure integrity and to establish a legal chain of custody. Samples will be forwarded to the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) for a pesticide residue analysis.
What happens when the investigator completes the investigation?
After the investigator has gathered all the necessary information related to an investigation, he or she forwards the case to the enforcement supervisor for review. If there is no violation, then the case is closed. If there is a potential violation, then the case is forwarded to a compliance manager for review to determine if further enforcement action is warranted.
If the evidence in the case is sufficient to prove that a violation of the Act or regulations has occurred, the compliance manager may issue letters of warning, civil penalties or after providing an opportunity for hearing, deny, suspend, modify or revoke an applicator’s certificate or a firm’s pesticide business license. In addition, the Board or the Commissioner may bring criminal action in court.
Will I be kept informed on the progress of my investigation?
The information regarding the laboratory analysis performed on samples collected during the investigation can be shared with you while the investigation is in progress. OPS investigates hundreds of cases each year and fewer than 10% are in violation, so sending updates on each case is impractical and cost prohibitive. Parties directly involved in the complaint can receive information by contacting the enforcement supervisor at (804)371-6560.
How long does this process take?
OPS is committed to providing a complete and thorough investigation of any complaint. The goal of OPS is to respond to the complainant within 24 hours of learning of an incident. However, there are many variables involved in an investigation that determine how long it will take to close a case. Some of the factors that delay the closure are a complicated laboratory analysis, a follow-up investigation, and the number of cases pending review. Since each case varies, it is impossible to provide a good estimate on how long it will take to achieve case closure.
What are the penalties for violating the Virginia Pesticide Control Act?
Penalties may be assessed under the authority of §3.2-3943 of the Virginia Pesticide Control Act. Civil Penalties are determined in accordance with the Guidelines for Enforcement of the Virginia Pesticide Control Act – Civil Penalty Assessment Decision Matrix (PDF).
Any person found guilty of violating the Act or regulations can be charged with a misdemeanor or assessed a civil penalty. Civil penalties can be no more than $1,000 per violation for a non-serious first violation. However, knowing or repeat violations may be assessed up to $20,000. In the event that death or serious physical harm to any person is caused by the violation, an additional fine of up to $500,000 can be assessed. In addition, the Board may suspend, revoke, or modify a firm’s pesticide business license or an applicator’s certification.
If you wish to see whether a civil penalty has been assessed to an individual or pesticide business you can conduct a Pesticide Civil Penalty Search.
Will I be compensated for damages?
The Virginia Pesticide Control Act does not provide compensation to individuals for damages. All penalties assessed under the Act are placed into a special fund in the state treasury to the credit of VDACS to be used in carrying out the provisions of the Act.
Who has access to information gathered in an investigation?
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives the public the right to view the case files once an investigation is closed. Therefore, unless otherwise exempt from disclosure, records contained in a closed case file must be released to the public upon request. Active investigations are not disclosed under FOIA.
Whom may I call if I have questions regarding my complaint or a complaint against me?
Call the Office of Pesticide Services at (804) 371-6560 and ask to speak to the enforcement supervisor.